I always spend a significantly greater amount of time on Tumblr in the winter. It seems that the art/art history related blogs I follow get better during this season, or all the fashion blogs I follow get weaker/nobody wants to post pictures of black girls killing it in long coats. This is all besides the point …
Strange Flowers a series by Olaf Hajek caught my eye today. One of the images from the series came up when I searched “google doodle sembene”, and I briefly believed that the middle image was indeed the great filmmaker.I was wrong-but still intrigued.
The dark flatness of the background, and the people in the paintings covered over by their accoutrements of accumulations (mostly “natural” forms such as flowers, monkeys, water) is stunning. The people are somber, and they look past the viewer. The lines are precise in some areas-extremely curvaceous in others. Most importantly after seeing the work, and knowing it was shown in South Africa I think I know what it is about.
Naturally after falling in love with the images I needed to do my own research. I clicked the “Visit Page” and was lead to the African Digital Art website where I read a brief write up of Hajek’s most recent body of work. Was definitely perplexed by the comparisons made and decided to go research Hajek’s work on my own.
I found the following: 1) Strange Flowers is not his most recent body, the information on African Digital Art was ripped directly from the press release on Hajek’s page 2) Hajek is not an African, nor does he live in Africa, nor does his biography include a substantial amount of information that would implicate Africa as an influence for Hajek 3) After finding out that Hajek was not African my connection to the work was broken, and immediately became defensive, riddled with WHY WOULD HE PORTRAY AFRICANS/BLACKS IN THIS MANNER IF HE IS NOT AFRICAN?
My reaction was short-lived, considering I simultaneously did the research on Hajek, had a fit, and wrote (am writing) about it all in one sitting. My reaction was a lesson to myself at a time when I am very impressionable from what I am reading for school (doing a lot of research on ethnographic presentations of Africa and Africans), paired with my own longing to return to Africa, and topped with initial zeal that I found a new amazing African artist to do research on who made really really flat work.
Despite all this, I encourage everyone to appreciate and enjoy Hajek’s work.